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Desert Companion

Maybe we should just let artists be artists

Niki Sands' paintings can be vibrant (cubistic portraits that hum with a sanguine stillness) or ethereally morose (her works in which a gloom-clouded face ponders some grave idea). But what binds the two dominant moods of her work is their overriding silence. You know how you can sort of hear a painting - hear it shout or sigh or laugh or moan? Sands' paintings seem preternaturally silent. It belies the emotion that goes into them.

"I'm an emotional painter," she says. "When I start a painting, I have no clue what's going to come out, no set theme to guide what I'm doing. It comes largely from feeling."

Don't get the impression that Sands' paintings are necessarily all sunshine or storm clouds. Some of her canvases simmer with a knowing sensuality. We might direct you to her portion of a mural on the side of the Erotic Heritage Museum on Industrial Road, but in December, the county demanded that the museum put painted pasties on all depictions of breasts, despite a sustained outcry from artists and art-lovers. Sands abdicates her usual cheerful reserve when asked about Areolagate.

"I thought the whole thing was a joke," she says. "I have grandsons. If I would've showed it to them, it wouldn't have been that big a deal."

Now that we think about it, this would make for another tip on how to keep our best artists working and living in Southern Nevada (which we explore on page TKTK): Maybe we shouldn't censor them.

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